Carnival Triumph Eastern Caribbean Cruise March 15th, 2003
13 Family members traveled together on the Carnival Triumph, this included 6 adults, 2 teenagers, and 5 children. Half of the travelers had never cruised before. Age ranges of the adults was late 30's to late 20's. My previous cruises have been on the Carnival Destiny, Paradise and Norwegian Sky. The cruise was booked through skyauction.com. We did not have any problems with this agency. My family of four paid $1600.00 for two inside rooms on the Riviera deck, this price included all taxes and port charges. We were pleasantly surprised to find that skyauction had champagne and chocolate strawberries waiting for us in each of the 5 cabins our group booked. I will definitely use their service again.
Pre-cruise: We traveled via JetBlue Airlines from Syracuse NY to Fort Lauderdale FL. I can't say enough wonderful things about this airline! Great prices, great new planes, an individual television and headset for every seat, all leather roomy seats.......friendly staff........If this company offers services in your area.....please give them a try. We had arranged for a private shuttle to meet the 13 of us in Fort Lauderdale. The cost of this was $120.00 and we tipped $30.00. The shuttle company was Miami Shuttle. We were happy with this service. We booked via priceline the Renaissance Miami Biscayne Bay Hotel in Miami. I felt the hotel was more than adequate for an overnight stay. We had a nice room with a beautiful view of the ships coming into port. The kids enjoyed the pool, and there is a Burger King across the street (traveling with kids!). No complaints regarding the hotel........we paid $50.00 from price line per room. One of my sisters did not book through priceline, and she paid $100.00.
Embarkation: This went smoothly and quickly. No complaints. Well done. The boarding process took about 30 minutes.
The ship: I was a little disappointed in the overall condition of the Triumph. While the ship was generally clean, there were obvious areas that need immediate attention. I was surprised to see that in the morning, on a couple of occasions, there were still dirty classes left on the bar from the night before. At least two of the elevators had several holes punched in the walls. The carpets in many of the halls were stained very badly. I had read about the stained carpet before I went, but was really surprised at the degree of staining. Most of the laundry machines were not functioning. I had to haul my laundry bag all over the ship before finding a wash machine that worked. I saw a man get very upset (at the wrong person). He carried his huge laundry bag a significant distance, only to find out that the machines were not working. He then walked all the way back to his room to ask his steward. His steward suggested he use the machines on another (specific) floor. He came back sometime later, hollering at the Steward because those machines didn't work either and the steward had suggested yet another floor. Many of the laundry rooms have only 1 or 2 functioning washers. The crew was often using these.
The ship does have well maintained public areas, the Dining rooms were very nice, the casino was well kept, the shops and lounges were without complaint, our staterooms were fine, but seems like it should look better for its age. I sailed on the Destiny on my first cruise, and while I loved the ship then, I have decided that I greatly prefer smaller ships. It is my opinion that a larger ship does not offer anything more to me than a smaller ship, except about 1000 less people. I really do not care for the pool layouts on this class of ship. The kids really enjoyed the water slide. They have really expanded the hours from our two previous Carnival cruise. The slide was open from 12-5 on sea days, and a couple hours a day on island stops.
Favorite spots on the ship: I LOVED sitting outside on deck 3..................the warm breezes, the solitude.........mostly shaded area.............the fresh ocean smell...............I spent many hours sitting here reading. (On a couple of afternoons, I brought my pillow from my room for my nap!) I really enjoyed watching the ship pull into ports from the front of the ship. Both of these areas were seldom used. To get to the front of the ship, walk all the way forward on deck 6 & 7 and go out the side door, this area is nice.
To put things in perspective, I should say that those of our group who had never sailed before felt the ship looked great. It is not a dump.......it is nice, but certainly could be better with very little effort, replace the carpet in the cabin hallways, fix the washing machine, and repair the walls in the elevators, wax a few floors, wash some windows..............easy.
Our cabins 2240 & 2244.. We had plenty of storage space, the beds were comfortable as were the pillows.......warning, these cabins are under the Rome lounge and there will be loud noise on two nights of the cruise. I called down to the pursers desk to complain that it sounded like a big brass band was sitting in my room with me (forgive the slight exaggeration). I was offered ear plugs! I couldn't believe it. They didn't even apologize. I said "I just told you that my room sounds like there is a big brass band in it and I am unable to sleep, you tell me that the show will be over at 11:30 and offer me ear plugs, did I hear you correctly?" Then she apologized. She then became much nicer and told me that there weren't any empty room available, but that there may be rooms available once we arrived at San Juan. She said if rooms became available, she would offer me the choice of moving. The next day I had an apology letter delivered to my room along with a bottle of champagne. After arriving at San Juan, I was offered a room on the 6th floor. Carnival also offered to move me into the new room, so I wouldn't have to do it, However, after checking the schedule in the Rome Lounge, I noted that there was only 1 more show that I expected to be noisy, so I decided to save myself the trouble, stay in the room and just go to the show! My face to face dealing with Stephanie at the Pursers desk were always handled well, she was polite and helpful. On the last day of my cruise, I received another apology letter from Carnival, along with a 15% discount on our next cruise. Overall, I was very happy with how the situation was handled.
Oh, I couldn't find an ice machine on my floor, after walking the entire way around, even though the Carnival Capers said there was one available on every floor, so I called the pursers desk, and they gave me the room number of the room next to the ice machine. Thinking I must have somehow missed it, I headed out again to find it. I found the empty spot where it must have at some point been......So I next asked our room steward, he told me they removed it and had never replaced it......and I could go down or up a flight to use theirs. I wouldn't have been so annoyed, if I had been told that there wasn't an ice machine on our floor..........and spent a lot of time looking for it.....
The service: I should say that our waiter in the Paris Dining Room was the best. He was above and beyond any previous waiter we have ever had. My room steward was as expected. The first two days, we seemed to have a problem with our schedule coinciding, however after we discussed this, it was never a problem again. He was in twice a day and did a nice job. (My sister's room steward was not as accommodating. She requested an extra pillow and he argued with her about needing it, before finally getting it for her). Service in the casual dining area needs to be improved. For example, we were attempting to have lunch in this area on a day at sea. The place was packed and we were having difficulty finding a table. I spotted a waitress clearing a table, I went over and asked if this table was available as I was unsure if perhaps the occupants were simply getting desert. She looked at me, kind of made a face and said "I don't know". It wasn't what she said, but the attitude of how she said it. I felt like I was an annoyance to her. The lines on sea days were simply unacceptable. I have never experienced lines like this on any other ship, simply unacceptable.
Food: The food served in the Paris Dining Room was some of the best I have ever had on a cruise ship. Everything was tasty, and cooked as ordered. The variety was good, the presentation was good and the taste was very good! It was a real pleasure to dine in the Paris Dining room. This was the first time that I tipped over the recommended amounts for the service staff. I noticed that the early seating dinner, was much less formal on formal night as compared to the late seating and other ships....Many people in the dining room on these evenings with simple dresses, slacks and shirts. The Buffet on the lido deck left a lot to be desired. I found the food unappealing and never more than slightly warm. We had two lunches here, but then decided we would not eat lunch here again. The pizza parlor that is open 24 hours a day had okay pizza and okay Caesar salads. The Grill offered tasty hamburgers, hot-dogs, steak sandwiches, grilled chicken sandwiches and French fries. The quality of the steak sandwiches varied greatly.....sometimes dry and tough, sometimes moist and tender. The kids felt the hamburgers were very good. I never did try the Chinese restaurant. The NY Deli offered a variety of sandwiches which were okay. Room service.........I was disappointed. The room service menu does not list times that items are available. I tried to order a ham sandwich for breakfast one day and was told that sandwiches are not available until noon. With such a limited menu, I felt that everything on the menu should be available 24 hours a day.
Itinerary, The islands:
San Juan: In my opinion, this is a wasted stop. I would rather arrive earlier, so we could actually do something here, or replace the stop with a closer destination. We got off the ship, walked to a fort (which was closed) and then just walked around for an hour or so, then got back on the ship. This stop does have a phone and Internet shop at the pier with reasonable prices (10 cents per minute for calls to the US), also Internet service was cheap.
St. Thomas: We took a taxi to Red Hook and caught the ferry to St. John. We spent a wonderful day at Trunk Bay. This is an awesome beach with facilities. The trip over and back (four taxi rides and 2 ferry rides) cost about $75.00 for my family of four. It would have cost well over $200 if I would have booked the same excursion from the ship. Save your money and do it yourself, it is very easy to do.
St. Martins: We loved this stop. I highly recommend "Everything's Cool" as a great place to spend the day. We took the water taxi ($5.00 per person for unlimited trips back and forth) from the pier (get off at the second stop and turn left to get to this great beach bar/ restaurant) It is a short walk from here. This bar offers 99 cent beer from the bottle, a different beer each day and it has wonderful frozen drinks. Two beach lounge chairs and a beach umbrella are available for $10.00. There are several water trampolines available for use, it was $5.00 to use these for around a half hour. The water was fairly calm, with just enough waves to keep the kids entertained for hours. There are a lot of sea shells available at this location and the kids filled up small buckets and had a wide variety of shells. There were told by security outside of the ship that sea shells were not allowed to be brought back on the ship and they would be taken from us, however, they were not. This beach was much nicer than I had imagined, while not as lush and tropical as Trunks Bay.....it has a atmosphere all it's own. There are a few downsides to the beaches at St. Martins....clothing is not required. Although the vast majority of the people do keep their clothes on, there were several who chose not to wear tops (including a woman who had no business taking her clothes off in public, as there are some things that we should not have to see. She was affectionately referred to as "Brutal Betty" by the guys in our group.) The kids (ages 9,8,6,5,4) didn't even notice the nudity....they just happily played in the surf.
I did not like the general itinerary. Having 2 days at sea, then all three stops in a row followed by the slow sail home, did not work for me. We were exhausted after having 3 island stops in a row. I would have preferred to have a day at sea between to help us relax.. Also, it really made it feel like our vacation was over on Wednesday, when we were leaving St. Martin and heading back to Miami. I will next time choose a cruise with the stops spaced out to allow us to rest a little between islands.
The cruise director: John Heald is great. This was my second cruise with him, unfortunately, many of his jokes were the same as they were four years ago, but he is still a super cruise director.
Camp Carnival: One of the reasons our family decided to all cruise together is because we do not live close. The kids really looked forward to spending time together. My son, age 9, is very shy and decided not to participate in Camp Carnival after learning that he could not be with his cousin who is 8. Our families live 6 to 7 hours apart and the boys had really looked forward to doing Camp Carnival together. I had been informed by folks from these boards that my nine year old would be allowed to move down to the 8 year old category, however we were told at the orientation that this would not be allowed. A couple of days later, we did ask again, and then they agreed that my nephew could move up to the nine year old category. Also, there are no teen programs for age 16 & up. As a result, my 16 year old son did not have a good time. The last time he cruised, he went to the children's program for the first day, met kids he wanted to hang out with, then they had a blast. This time, he met one person. He actually said that next year, he will stay home when we go, that he missed his friends. However, my five year old nephew used Camp Carnival, and he loved it. The camp counselors appeared to do a wonderful job entertaining the kids.
General comments: The adult only hot tubs in the back of the ship were really "Adult Only". The kids were promptly asked to leave. The hot tubs were never hot, just warm........the shower was never hot, just warm. In an effort to have people stop saving chairs, the instructions in the Carnival Capers now tells you that you are to take your beach towel from your room to the pool. It also tells you that if you lose it, you pay for it......so, you will see less towels used to save chairs, and more suntan lotions and books. There were some other towels available at the pool area, but they were not easy to find, and were not replenished when they ran out.
A little problem for us was that they strictly enforced no children in the casino. On previous cruises, our son accompanied us a couple of times to the slot machines, he never played, would just quietly watch. This time, he walked down with me, and we were told he couldn't be there, and we had to leave (we never even made it to a machine). I do not think this is a bad policy, just it had never happened on our other trips.
The smoking policy was really an issue........the capers said that smoking was only permitted on the starboard side of the open air decks, however, most of the passengers did not know the port side from the starboard side...so therefore, smoking was taking place on both sides. It wasn't until about 4 or 5 days into the trip that they explained what port & starboard meant. When my sister asked crew which side of the ship she could smoke on, they told her anywhere she wanted. She asked several crew members and received the same response each time.
I really missed the free style dining that is available on the Norweign line. The dining room was really a highlight of this trip, it was just having to comply with their dining times that was a pain.
Post Cruise Stay: We stayed at the Embassy Suites at Miami Airport. We were satisified with the accomadations. We paid 50 dollars for the room at Price Line.
Summary: Despite the complaints listed above, we really did have a great cruise. It was super having our family together for a vacation. We didn't pay much for this cruise, so I really feel it was fine . However, I will not be sailing on this class of ship again. It did NOT exceed my expectations....it may be that my expectations are growing with each cruise I take. I prefer smaller ships, I will be looking more closely at the itinerary.